PHILADELPHIA –Over the next five years, Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Associate Scholar in the Center of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Perelman School of Medicine, will receive funding from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to study the relationship between psoriasis, cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular outcomes. This research will build a deeper understanding of the relationship between inflammatory diseases like psoriasis and myocardial infarction (heart attack), potentially paving the way for improved disease management strategies for the over 7 million Americans with psoriasis.

Severe psoriasis affects greater than 10 percent of the body’s surface. Photo credit: Joel Gelfand, MD, MSCE

Severe psoriasis affects greater than 10 percent of the body’s surface.

Photo credit: Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE

Dr. Gelfand will be speaking at 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in San Francisco in a briefing on Friday, March 6 from 12:15pm – 1:30pm. He will discuss his ongoing psoriasis research, which has identified an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, particularly when psoriasis is severe. For more information, please visit http://www.aad.org/meetings/annual/.

As with other major chronic illnesses, psoriasis can take a toll on patients’ quality of life. The disease is characterized by thick, red, scaly skin plaques which can be localized or widespread and appears as an inflammatory joint disease in some patients.

Affecting over two percent of the adult population in the United States, psoriasis is the most common inflammatory disease categorized as T helper cell type 1 (Th-1). Increasing evidence has linked this Th-1 inflammation to the development of atherosclerosis and ultimately, myocardial infarction, suggesting that the underlying physiological mechanism that results in psoriasis may also be a risk factor for myocardial infarction. Other Th-1 diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, have been shown to be independent risk factors for myocardial infarction.

For over 30 years, investigators have suggested that psoriasis may be associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction. To date, however, there have been no large, broadly representative studies evaluating the impact of psoriasis severity on cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes such as heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death. Severity is determined by the extent of body surface area affected by the disease. Previously, Dr. Gelfand’s research has indicated that severe psoriasis patients, as defined by treatment history, may have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and death, which is independent of traditional risk factors for these outcomes.

A series of population-based cohort studies will help Gelfand and his colleagues determine if patients with mild, moderate and severe psoriasis have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, poorer control of cardiovascular risk factors, and an increased risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, and cardiovascular mortality compared to patients without psoriasis.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

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